The Libertarian Party has sued state election officials in hopes of getting its candidate for governor listed as a Libertarian on November’s ballot. It’s one of several lawsuits that third parties have filed in recent years against Tennessee’s ballot access laws.
To get on the ballot as an independent, candidates only need 25 voters to sign a petition. But if they want a political party next to their name — other than Republican or Democrat — they need about 40,000 signatures. The two major parties receive so many of the votes cast each year that they get to bypass that requirement.
“The history of Tennessee, in the last 40 to 50 years, has been one that has basically, unless you can win a lawsuit, you’re not going to have minor parties on the ballot,” says Jim Linger, a lawyer from Oklahoma who is representing the Libertarian Party in its new lawsuit.
The Green Party and Constitution Party also filed lawsuits to get their candidates on the ballot earlier this year. The district court sided with them, and an appeals court heard the case last week.
But Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt, says he’s researched states where its easier to get listed as a third-party candidate — and having a party label doesn’t seem to help.
“Those party candidates don’t do any better than people running as independents,” he says.
In general, he says, minor candidates would have a better shot at getting elected if they tried to run within the Democratic or Republican parties.
Still, the courts have tended to side with third parties in Tennessee. That has forced the state legislature to make the laws less restrictive: For instance, state law no longer requires primaries for minor parties, and it pushed back the deadline for gathering signatures by 30 days.
Linger, the Libertarian Party lawyer, says they might just keep suing until they agree with what’s on the books. Read The Full Story
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Another minor party has sued to get its candidates recognized on the ballot this November.
The Libertarian Party of Tennessee, gubernatorial nominee Daniel T. Lewis and two Middle Tennessee voters say in a suit filed in federal court late last month that the state discriminates against minor parties by forcing organizers to gather too many signatures too long before the election.
Libertarians hope to join the Green Party and the Constitution Party as third parties that have been recognized for this November’s vote. A federal judge in Nashville granted those parties access to the ballot earlier this year in a similar lawsuit.
Tennessee law requires Libertarians and other third parties to turn in about 40,000 signatures at least 90 days before the general election to have their candidates recognized on the general election ballot. Otherwise, those candidates appear as “independents.”
Only one minor party, former Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s American Party, has ever met Tennessee’s signature requirement.
Libertarians ask the U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee to order Secretary of State Tre Hargett and state coordinator of election Mark Goins to grant Lewis and the party’s other candidates recognition in time for the Nov. 4 election, just as it has for the Greens and Constitutionalists.
A spokesman for Hargett and Goins declined to comment. The Greens and Constitutionalists’ suit currently is under appeal. Read The Full Story
In Tennessee, 53-year-old ballot access laws place significant and unique burdens on independent parties, thus limiting their ability to be recognized on the ballot. As a result, third-party candidates have traditionally listed themselves as “independent” on Tennessee ballots, as ballot access requirements for independent candidates are much more reasonably attainable than for representatives of a political party. However, the 2012 lawsuit Green Party of Tenn. et al. vs. Hargett et al. rattled the restrictive rules, as a federal judge decided that the requirements placed on independent parties were unconstitutional. Ultimately, US District Judge William Haynes Jr. ordered that the Green and Constitution parties be listed on the ballot in 2012 and, through another lawsuit, in 2014. Read The Full Story
“Bring it, you f*****g animals! Bring it!” taunted a tonsured thug in the employ of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department during protests over the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. According to Dorian Johnson, who witnessed the killing from just a few feet away, the incident began when a still-unidentified officer hurled a similar taunt at the two of them from a patrol car. Read The Full Story